In the final hours before the “fiscal cliff” becomes a reality, President Barack Obama has left talks to… Vice President Joe Biden, who is reported to be negotiating directly with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
The Hill reported yesterday: “McConnell has begun talking with Vice President Biden in an effort to ‘jump-start’ the negotiations.” President Obama has adopted to remain out of the talks and supposedly above the fray.
The last-ditch effort between Biden-McConnell talks reportedly began Sunday evening, after McConnell and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) failed to reach agreement on core issues.
This is not the first time that Obama has delegated core responsibility to his deputy. He did so, most recently, on gun control efforts. He has also done so on the issue of helping the middle class and monitoring stimulus funds.
Vice President Biden’s extensive Senate experience may give him unique credentials in negotiating with the Senate’s top Republican. He also led debt ceiling talks with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2011.
Yet President Obama is the only person with the authority to make a deal–and is the only politician with enough power to force Democrats–or entice Republicans–into agreement. His absence at this late, critical stage would be puzzling, were it not a hallmark of President Obama’s leadership style, preferring to stay out of negotiations unless absolutely necessary, from the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009 to the debt ceiling talks of 2011.
Yet Obama’s reticence has little to show for it; most of these effort have resulted in failure to reach a deal. By abdicating his leadership role to Vice President Biden, President Obama risks the same on the “fiscal cliff.”